The Internet makes an exhibition of itself

Conglomerates and minnows lock horns to dazzle and delight the geeks and the Luddites at the first consumer Internet show at Olympia.
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Well-known companies and new players provided the latest news in Internet service providers, e-commerce and sites to surf at Switched On, the UK's first consumer Internet show.

The show, which took place at London's Olympia over the weekend, also appealed to people who don't yet use the Net. If you needed an incentive to start, then sites like Quotecheckers were tapping a common vein by promising to zap cowboy builders.

Many of the free Internet service providers (ISPs) were aiming at first- timers. And encouraged by recent research showing that Internet use in the UK continues to grow rapidly, they were offering attractive packages to potential customers not fully convinced.

Prior to a launch next month, Totalise previewed a share offer in the company, as well as a free call package. Also looking good was 1st Touch, which will launch in January and will give a free customised computer, complete with Internet keys, colour moldings and speakers.

The Net savvy kids less interested in shares or a computer, flocked to the Myisp stand. Myisp updates the standard Internet portal with an innovative 3D chat room. Aimed at teenagers, it is launching with a 13-week advertising radio campaign.

If it was entertainment you hanker after, then the Dreamcast consoles at the BT stand offered a good diversion. BT hosts the Sega Dreamcast site, where computer game aficionados can play over the Internet. Holding forth as one of the leaders in the field of Web services on your mobile phone was BT Cellnet's Genie Internet. They were showing the latest Web services that come directly to your mobile phone. Orange and Vodafone launched similar services this summer. With Genie Internet, your e-mail and text messages can be sent and received by any digital mobile phone, and information ranging from sport results to share price changes can be received, free of charge. Messages dictated into your phone will be transcribed and delivered via fax or e-mail.

Online shopping was represented by the Beenz site. Beenz allows you earn Web currency by shopping on the site. Also featured were sites for those with something specific in mind like for last-minute travel deals.

With all this encouragement to get "switched on", online banking wasn't about to be left out. Nationwide Building Society demonstrated their site, which now includes Internet access complete with Net-Nanny software to block sites you don't want your children to see. And aiming to ease your passage through the complexity of mortgage hunting was the new mortgage company created by Winterthur (part of the Credit Suisse group).